Omnichannel, chatbots and monitoring are most important for optimal reachability

Spotler Engage • 4 minute read • 16/11/2023
Chatbots, Media monitoring, Online customer service
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Spotler Engage has been a partner for the public domain for more than 10 years. With solutions for web care, messaging, chatbots, media monitoring and an extensive training agenda , governments, educational and healthcare institutions are helped with their customer contact and media monitoring. Municipalities in particular find Spotler Engage a strong partner with in-depth knowledge of the playing field. We spoke to Jasper Bierhof, public domain consultant, about developments in how municipalities interact with the public. 

Omnichannel and accessibility remain the standard for municipalities

“Trends in customer service, online communication and monitoring that emerge in the business community are always ultimately embraced by governments. We are currently seeing this happening with omnichannel. Municipalities increasingly want to be where the resident is, so that the resident choose which channel they will make contact on. Not only because it is easier for the resident, but sometimes also necessary because not everyone speaks the same language or is available during office hours.” 

The latest development in this area is call deflection. Jasper explains: “The cool thing about it is that it doesn’t matter which channel a resident uses to approach the municipality, you can always switch to a more suitable or less busy channel. Suppose a resident contacts your municipality by telephone, how often are they told that the waiting time is a little longer than usual? With call deflection you can set up a telephone selection menu in such a way that the resident has the choice of waiting until an employee is available or switching to WhatsApp. In the latter case, as a municipality you automatically send an opening WhatsApp message to the mobile number. The resident can then ask their question via WhatsApp and even enrich it with photos or voice message. Another advantage of WhatsApp as a customer channel is that the tone of voice is very friendly and informal, and that it is a channel on which residents and employees do not have to communicate simultaneously. This means that you are in a personal conversation with your resident, but you do not have to answer instantly. In our solution we can also bring all these channels together so that communication remains comprehensible.” 

Chatbots are much less complicated and expensive than often thought

An omnichannel strategy and channel management via call deflection ensures a high degree of accessibility and can give your contact centre employees some breathing space but does not solve the issue of high volumes by itself. That is something that can be achieved if you use chatbots. Jasper says: 

“A chatbot is not a perfect product that will solve all contact centre problems, but it is certainly a powerful tool that helps residents find their way on an often extensive municipal website even outside office hours. In practice, I often hear that people are afraid that a chatbot is a complicated and, above all, expensive project. But that is no longer the case.” 

Not everyone has good experiences with chatbots. If a chatbot is set up in a very conversational manner with many open questions, it is more likely to make mistakes. Jasper: “At such times, a chatbot only causes irritation. But fortunately, it can also be done differently. We have SAM bots, which are standard chatbots that we implement with our municipal customers. For example, the SAM referral bot that directs website visitors to the correct page or the SAM appointment bot with which residents can easily and quickly schedule an appointment to, for example, renewing their driver’s license. Municipalities can be up and running very quickly with such a standard bot and the costs are very reasonable because we already have the chatbots ready-made on the shelf.” 

Do chatbots immediately solve the staff shortage? “Chatbots certainly do not replace employees, but chatbots do increase your reachability. It is important that you properly manage what happens if a chatbot does not resolve the problem. Ensure that the question is forwarded to an employee on live chat or that a form with a callback request is sent to an employee. The resident must of course always be certain that their question or problem is in good hands.” 

Bringing the outside in with tailor-made monitoring

Then there is the permanent municipal spearhead ‘bringing the outside in’. Jasper: “It is of course very important for municipalities to closely monitor what is happening when and where in the municipality. Communication departments can monitor independently with our tool, using easy-to-create dashboards. We can also provide extensive advice and share many experiences and well-functioning examples from other municipalities. In addition, our own analysts also regularly assist municipalities by providing tailor-made environmental analyses. This can be done periodically or during crises. I have seen the added value of this myself during COVID protests and now in the refugee and energy crisis. Our analysts have more than 10 years of experience in this field and therefore add clarity and action-oriented insights.” 

“Although each municipality naturally has its own themes, it is nice that we can use our years of experience to respond to their needs. I am convinced that we are more than just a software partner. With more than 10 years of experience in the market, we have built everything before. Reports, queries, implementations, we have even trained thousands of contact centre employees and analysts over the years. That gives us very good insights into what can also work for other municipalities. I hope that we can share our expertise with this beautiful domain for a long time to come.” 

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